Ayatollah al-Udhma Imam Muhammad Shirazi is undoubtedly the most eminent Marje' or Religious Authority of Muslim world. A charismatic leader who is known for his high moral values, modesty and spirituality, Imam Shirazi is a mentor and a source of aspiration to millions of Muslims; and the means of access to authentic knowledge and teachings of Islam.
He has tirelessly devoted himself, and his entire life, to the cause of Islam and Muslims in particular, and to that of mankind in general. He has made extensive contributions in various fields of learning ranging from Jurisprudence and Theology to Government, Politics, Economics, Law, Sociology and Human Rights.
Born in Najaf, Iraq, in 1347 AH, 1928 AD, the young Shirazi continued his studies of different branches of learning under the guidance of various eminent scholars and specialists, as well as his father, the renowned Marje' of the time, Ayatollah al-Udhma Mirza Mahdi Shirazi. In the course of his training he showed an outstanding talent and a remarkable appetite for learning as well as a tireless commitment to his work and the cause he believed in.
His extraordinary ability, and effort, earned him the recognition at the age of 25, by the Maraje' and scholars of the time, of being a Mujtahid, a fully qualified religious scholar and lawmaker in the sciences of Islamic jurisprudence and law. He was subsequently able to assume the office of the Marje' at the early age of 33 in 1380 AH, 1961.
Imam Shirazi is distinguished for his intellectual ability and holistic vision. He has written various specialized studies that are considered to be among the most important references in the relevant fields. He has enriched the world with his staggering contribution of more than 1000 books, treatise and studies on various branches of learning.
His works range from introductory works for the youth to literary and scientific masterpieces. Deeply rooted in the Holy Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet of Islam, his vision and theories cover such areas as Legislation, Management, Environment, Sociology, Theology, Philosophy, History Human Rights, Law and Islamic beliefs or doctrine.
His work on Islamic Jurisprudence (the al-Fiqh series) for example constitutes 150 volumes, which run into more than 70,000 pages. Through his original thoughts and ideas he has championed the causes of issues such as the family, human rights, freedom of expression, political pluralism, non-violence, and such like.
From the outset of his adult and scholarly life, because of his total dedication to the Teachings of Islam, and because of his views on various issues, which are based on those teachings, he came under sustained pressure from the authorities in Iraq.
During his stay in Iran he continued to call for Islamic issues such as freedom of expression, party political pluralism, peace and non-violence, which in turn brought about the wrath of the authorities there. His uncompromising stance on implementing the teachings of Islam in all aspects of government including such vital matters as leadership by consensus or Showral-Foqaha'-al-Maraje' (religious authorities' council of leadership) attracted the fury of those at the helm.
Having spent the entire of his adult life striving for the greater enlightenment of the Muslims and mankind, Imam Shirazi died in suspicious circumstances in the holy city of Qum, Iran, on Monday the 2nd Shawwal 1422 AH, 17th December 2001.
More than half a million people attended his funeral procession on the following day. Imam Shirazi believed in the fundamental and elementary nature of freedom in mankind. He used to call for freedom of expression, political plurality, debate and discussion, tolerance and forgiveness.
He strongly believed in Shura and called for the establishment of the leadership council of religious authorities. He continuously called for the establishment of the universal Islamic government to encompass all the Muslim countries. These and other ideas are discussed in detail in his books of more than 1000.